We’ve all heard the quote “Comparison is a thief of joy” yet we often fall victim. Whether it’s your Instagram feed, your snapchat, or your television screen, it feels as if we can't go more than five minutes without seeing an airbrushed photo, travel boomerang, engagement video, gender reveal, or home purchase announcement. While I'm a big fan of social media, as it’s opened a new world of connectivity and opportunity -- I’ve seen it take a toll on so many women. Myself included.
Have you ever gone on a social media “fast” or deactivated your accounts? It’s likely you felt yourself getting consumed and needed to step away for whatever reason. My guess is it was due to overconsumption of other people’s social updates on their “perfect lives". It likely happened at a time when things weren’t going that great for you, so the comparison monster creeped in your head and you just needed to step away. Which kudos to you for being aware enough to back away and for some self care.
Comparing your work, your life, or whatever else will only serve to make you unhappy. Why? Because when you compare yourself to others, you know all the dirty details of your situation or the problems you’re having, and you only have the perfect highlight reel of others. Now I’m not a proponent of posing your dirty laundry or issues on social networks in an effort to appear “real”. I just think it’s good as women to be mindful that the images we see on social media are usually 1 of 654765 photo attempts, combined with apps that allow women to smooth, contour, suck in, and poke out things that aren’t really there.
However, I learned a long time ago that comparing myself to others is a waste of energy. There will always be someone better at something than I am. And that’s fine.
When I started looking at comparison differently, things begin to shift. When I see someone who has done or is doing something I would like to do, instead of envying it, I let it inspire me and an indicate that I, too, can achieve it.
WHY COMPARISON IS STEALING MORE THAN YOUR JOY…(IT'S MAKING YOU JEALOUS)
While Comparison is a thief of joy, jealousy is its partner in crime. Comparison is corrosive. It eats away at your ability to be content and confident. It is a toxic and leads to its accomplice --- jealousy.
Whether you’re comparing your body, abilities, or bank account to someone else’s, you are doing harm to yourself by allowing that comparison to rob me of my self-satisfaction and cause envy. And that’s a bad habit that’s hard to break,
Jealousy has a way of focusing on one thing at the expense of others, giving an incomplete picture. For example, envy ignores the hours of work that generated the salary, the years spent getting a degree and the sacrifice of time that could have been spent with friends or family. It overlooks the years of practice, confusion, or failure that preceded the success. It discounts the struggle, when the struggle IS REAL!
Comparison fosters competition more than community.
Instead of celebrating individuality, uniqueness, and diversity, comparison requires someone be labeled the winner and someone the loser. We view other women as competitors instead of companions. This leads to a “better than versus worse than” mentality and feelings of superiority or inadequacy — neither of which helps us to all be BOSS WOMEN.
Comparison imposes unrealistic expectations.
It’s fairly easy to envy one aspect of another person’s life — his/her figure, talent, wealth, significant other, or intelligence. It’s much harder to examine and then envy a whole life — a robust picture of one's experiences. When I have to weigh everything at once, I tend to be more satisfied with what I have. Because if I want anything someone else has (his/her education, self confidence, weight, et cetera), I have to take everything else that comes with it — be it a bomb three story house, a cheating significant other , perfect teeth, or an alcoholic parent.
I’m not saying every life balances out. Some lives have more blessings and some have more loss. But every life has its relative ins and outs that we rarely see play out.
Comparison makes you powerless.
When you compare, you get jealous, when you are jealous, you can’t be satisfied. When you aren't satisfied you are powerless. You are powerless, because even when you’re happy with your life, comparison will have you out here desiring a another person’s man, salary, height, success, wardrobe, hair, fill-in-the-blank. Which is crazy...because you were just satisfied with what you had.
Comparison undermines friendships.
Comparison and jealousy sometimes is a subtler infection. Especially in friendships. One of the sadder truths I’ve learned as I continue to grow is that some people or "friends" want to see you win, but not more than them. We’re unable to genuinely congratulate someone who accomplishes a dream or goal we have for ourselves. We become cheap with our affirmations and good will (even our Instagram “likes”) when we’re jealous. Have you ever withheld a “like” because you thought the other person was bragging about his/her vacation, workout, wedding, or weight loss?
Comparing puts us in the mindset that another person’s good fortune leaves less in the world for us. Which is absolutely untrue. If you want to start a blog, but your friend already started one...go start your blog. You want to sing but your friend has a record deal, ask her for tips and utilize her expertise. While some things in life are limited in supply, most things are not. Love, joy, laughter, success, friendship, peace — those things are all UNLIMITED.
How do I prevent comparison and jealousy from stealing my joy?
The antidote is simple:
Allow yourself to compare, but also seek a course of action. If YOU want something someone else has, ask YOURSELF if you are willing to do what it will take to have what the other person has. If the answer is no, then the jealousy should evaporate. If the answer is yes, then it becomes the seed for a new dream and the motivation to nurture it. This prevents me from wanting the reward separate from the prerequisite work.
Gratitude also helps. It’s difficult to be jealous when you're grateful. Comparison focuses on deficits while gratitude focuses on gains. Gratitude does not require the denial of loss, lack, or hardship. What it does do, at least for me, is prevent those things that are good from being obscured by those things I want.
Being grateful takes me a step further, because true gratitude engenders generosity. And when I’m giving, I’m not looking for what I lack. Instead, I’m trying to offer something to others out of what I already have — whether it’s my money, knowledge, time, love, abilities, or talents.
We might as well learn to love myself on my own terms — who I am, how I look, and what I’m capable of — because YOU are the only YOU in this world.